How can a blind man play basketball?

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As many of us are coming to realize, the brain is extremely complex and interesting. One of the many amazing tricks of the brain that I found to be of particular interest is plasticity. Plasticity is a phenomenon that allows the brain to change and "re-wire" itself.

benfrontpagesm.jpgOne example of plasticity that I found to be astounding was the case of Ben Underwood. Ben Underwood (1992 - 2009) was no less than a prodigy. Ben suffered from an aggressive form of cancer at a very young age. He was forced to undergo surgery to remove his eyes at age two. However, unlike the typical blind person, Ben uses no cane or seeing-eye dog. He doesn't need to walk with his arms outstretched to find his way. Ben was able to develop the ability to echo-locate in order to "see". Ben echo-locates by clicking his tongue. He is then able to intercept the sound waves as they are reflected off of nearby objects. In this way, Ben is able to sense objects in his environment. He is able to run, bike, roller blade and even play basketball by echolocation. How amazing! What a feat of the human brain.

Though no formal studies were conducted on the brain of Ben Underwood, it is likely that the part of his brain responsible for echolocation is the same part that would typically be responsible for vision. Since this part of the brain is largely inactive in blind individuals, it can be "re-purposed" to accommodate other skills, typically the ability to read braille.

More on Ben Underwood:

--Ben's Official Website

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This page contains a single entry by jorda497 published on October 9, 2011 11:24 PM.

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